Suicide blast kills 31 as Pakistan holds general elections


ISLAMABAD (AP) — A suicide bomber on a motorcycle rammed into people waiting outside a busy polling station in the Pakistani city of Quetta on today, killing at least 31 and casting a dark shadow on what was to be a historic day for the country as Pakistanis cast ballots to elect their thirds consecutive civilian government.

The attack in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, underscored the difficulties this majority Muslim nation faces on its wobbly journey toward sustained democracy.

The bombing also wounded 35 people, with several reported to be in critical condition, raising concerns the death toll could rise further, said hospital official Jaffar Kakar, a doctor.

As polls closed, Pakistan's Election Commission spokesman Nadeem Qasim told The Associated Press that the commission had issued a notice to aspiring prime minister Imran Khan saying his vote could be disqualified after he cast his ballot in front of television cameras, violating "the secrecy of the ballot paper."

Qasim said Khan violated Pakistan's constitution, which guarantees the secrecy of the ballot. Images showed a smiling Khan with his ballot paper laid out in front of him as he marked the ballot.

Wednesday's voting for a National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, and four provincial assemblies followed a rancorous campaign marked by widespread allegations of manipulation. Analysts and rights groups have warned of post-election instability and predicted losing parties would cry foul.

The uncertainty of the outcome of the vote – no single party appeared assured of a simple majority win – could also lead to prolonged post-election jockeying that would hamper the forming of the next government.

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